It wasn’t hard to keep up with her. The biggest issue was remembering to keep my head down so that I didn’t hit the ceiling. It’d be a shame to trash one of the paintings above the landings. Destroying a window was one thing. Glass could be replaced, but the paintings couldn’t.
“What’s with the extra-large suit?” Amy asked over the comm.
“Nothing. I wanted to try it and it fit V4’s theme. V8’s mech is even larger.”
Taking the stairs three steps at a time, I had my own questions, “I don’t remember you being able to teleport.”
Breathing steadily as she ran, she replied, “I can’t unless I’ve got at least ten minutes and some connection to where I’m going. It’s more of a ritual. The previous Bloodmaidens knew it and they taught it to me.”
“Whoa. So Red Hex was okay with using blood magic?”
Amy laughed, “Not at all. She was like she always is when I use it—judgey—even though the only blood we used was mine.”
Thinking back to what I remembered about blood magic, I said, “For power?”
She glanced back at me for a second, “Partly power. Partly to make it easier to aim. After you gave me a little bit of your soul, it’s been easier for me to find you with magic.”
I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, “Oh.”
“Oh is exactly it. Don’t do that again.” She jumped the remaining four steps to the next landing.
Then she stopped and turned to face me. “Red Hex isn’t all wrong. I don’t remember if I told you this, but it’s worth saying again. In this world, Blood magic is used by vampires and allies they’ve taught to use it. I’m not sure what we’ll see up there and you might need to let me die.”
I looked down at her. She stared up at me, mouth in a thin line, eyes narrow. I told her, “I remember that conversation. I’m not going to save you that way again, but if I’ve got another option, I’ll take it.”
She nodded, “I can live with that. I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to take you with me.”
“I don’t want that either,” I said.
“Good,” she turned and we kept on running. I called Vincent and Mateo, bringing Amy in on that channel because now that she was here, she’d need to coordinate. A moment later, I added Rod and Samita to the channel, but not this conversation. They didn’t need the distraction.
“Hey,” I said, “where are you in the tower?”
Mateo’s calm tenor answered, “Close to the top, but we’re not in the stairwell right now. We skipped out when we heard a lot of them coming down toward us. They’ve passed us now, but I was thinking we should wait until you catch up and go in as a group.”
“Good plan,” I said. “It sounds like they might have some blood magic-based sorcerers up there, but good news, Bloodmaiden’s here now. Hopefully, she’ll be able to run interference there, and if we’re really lucky, Red Hex and Troll might show up.”
Mateo and Vincent both laughed at that and Vincent said, “I saw them out the window. Wondered why they were here. They’re a helluva distraction. Don’t know how long they’ll last, but they’re more than a bunch of mobsters can handle.”
Thinking about that, I hoped that they’d have a sense of when to get out of the fight. I said, “Yeah. They’re good. We’ll meet up with you as soon as we can. And while you’re waiting, could you tell them where you are and to join you when they get the chance.”
Mateo spoke up, “I’ll handle it.”
Signing off, I concentrated on running again. I hadn’t lost much ground on Amy, but I wasn’t as close as I should be. I took a few steps, getting me closer by half a turn of the stairwell.
But then she muttered, “Uh oh,” over the comm and I knew why—many footsteps. Vincent and Mateo had been going up as stealthily as possible and must have heard them first.
The V4 suit wasn’t stealthy at all and Amy and I had been running. I said, “Maybe we can detour out the door,” pointing toward the doorway to the 29th floor, but a look upward told me what I needed to know. They were only two floors above us and if we did, they’d follow.
Amy muttered a few words in a language I didn’t recognize and the red edges of her armor glowed brighter, adding a layer of what I assumed was a defensive shield.
She needed it. A rain of bullets came down from above us, hitting the iron railing, the steps, and the two of us.
Bullets hit the shield, bouncing off, but leaving it a little dimmer. When they hit my armor, of course, they just bounced, sending the bullet to a new home—most often the plaster wall next to me.
I fired off my paralyzation weapons, aiming them upward and seeing men fall onto the stairs with dull thumping noises.
Amy did one better. She made a motion with her left hand and blood-red lines connected to five men, two of them in powered armor, gave a yank and the red lines doubled in width.
All five men turned white and sank to the stairs beneath them.
It went a long way toward explaining how Samita might find “normal” blood magic creepy.